As Strong as the Mountains: A Kurdish Cultural Journey by Robert L. Brenneman
187 pages, $25.95 list
eBook availability
As Strong as the Mountains
A Kurdish Cultural Journey
Second Edition
The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without their own homeland, numbering over 30 million people divided among Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Originating as rural nomads living in the mountains, the Kurds have transformed into an urban entity within the Middle East. Brenneman, who has lived and conducted long-term fieldwork among the Kurds in Iraq and Turkey, presents a rich arc of their culture and experiences from ancient to modern times.

The latest edition incorporates original and updated accounts of core and changing aspects of contemporary Kurdish culture, including human rights challenges, complicated ethnic identity, women’s roles and gender issues, family and community dynamics, diverse religious practices, transition from oral tradition to literacy, and struggles to defeat the Islamic State. Questions for discussion at the end of each chapter encourage readers to think deeply about what it means to be a proud ethnic group fighting for sovereignty and recognition.
“Great for undergraduate classrooms. I particularly like the discussion questions.” — Cynthia Smith, Ohio State University

“I chose this text because it addresses several contemporary issues in a region of the world our students need to understand.” — Rose-Marie Chierici, SUNY Geneseo

“With clear prose and a depth of understanding of Kurds, Kurdistan, and the Middle East, the author provides an engaging introduction to the dynamics of social life for the Kurds of Turkey and Iraq. The discussions of kinship, proverbs, and change are handled particularly well. The book provides a strong sense of real people confronting challenges in their homeland and diaspora.” — Uzi Baram, New College of Florida

“Excellent coverage. Combining history, ethnicity, politics, and culture, it would be a great, and inexpensive, addition to a course on Peoples & Cultures of the Middle East.” — Don Conway-Long, Webster University
Table of Contents
Introduction: Mountain Scenario

1. Discovering the Kurds
My Journey with the Kurds / Understanding Culture / Methodology of the Research / Difficulties in Doing Research among the Kurds

2. History and Ethnic Identity
The Suppression of Kurdish History / Ancient History until the Ottoman Empire / The Islamization of the Kurds / Kurdish Identity during the Ottoman Empire / The Transition from Empire to Nation-State / The Legacy of Atatürk / The Role of Turgut Özal / The Role of the PKK / Developments in Iraq since the Treaty of Sevres / The U.S. Betrayal of Mustafa Barzani / The First Gulf War and Its Aftermath / Internal Factions among the Kurds

3. Language and Ethnic Identity
The Development of Kurdish in Iraqi Kurdistan / Developments in Turkey / How Kurdish Are Turkish Kurds?

4. From Storytelling to Television: The Decline of Oral Tradition
Indigenous Knowledge and Oral Tradition / Genres of Oral Tradition / Myths, Legends, and Folktales / Proverbs / Functions of Oral Tradition / Effects of Literacy on the Oral Transmission of Culture / Television and Oral Tradition

5. Relationships, Roles, and Traditions
Family and Enculturating the Next Generation / Sex and Marriage / Gender Issues / Tribal Structure and Leadership

6. Core Values and Religious Rituals
The Importance of Hospitality / The Importance of Honor / Courage / Other Important Values / Shame and Guilt Cultures / Religious Values and Rituals

7. Rapid Urbanization and Culture Change
Displaced Kurds / Imagined Communities in Urban Regions / Urbanization and Traditional Values / Asabiyya / Urbanization and Anomie / Lessons from the Kurds

8. Update: Mountains, Malls, and War
The Cessation of Civil War / The Aftermath of the War in Iraq / Restoration of the Caliphate / The Eschatology of the Islamic State / The War and the Kurds / IS Are Not the Only Bad Guys / Kurdistan and Turkey: Places of Refuge / Can IS Be Defeated? / Globalization and Urbanization among Iraqi Kurds / Some Kurds Explore Their Pre-Islamic Roots / Kurdistan: Transformed but Not Paradise Yet / Changes in Turkey's Attitude toward Iraqi Kurdistan / The Kurdish Corridor / Turkey: Optimism and Concern / From Mountains to Malls

Appendix A: Worldwide Population of the Kurdish People
Appendix B: Glossary of Foreign Words